This blog post is part of the series on civil liberties. Terrorism is a hot topic at the moment with much talk of the 'war on terror'. I have argued in a previous post that the threat of terrorism is a significant factor only in economic terms and then only because of the general public's misunderstanding of relative risks. Today I outline what I think are the appropriate ways of dealing with terrorism.
I shall discuss risks to civilians, the tourist industry and appropriate responses to these risks. Risks in other areas I believe are adequately dealt with already.
1) Risk to civilian lives and property.
I think that the legislative framework that was in place before the Labour government came to office was actually sufficient to deal with the terrorist threat (except with regards to encryption). The security services and the police need to be granted sufficient resources to carry out their investigations.
Some of the difficulties that the police face in gaining convictions stem from the fact that they now have powers to make arrests for possession of terrorist training material and the glorifying of terrorism. As I would argue that these should not be offenses (of themselves) I do not see it as a problem that gaining convictions for these offenses requires searching through vast amounts of data.
In terms of preventing terrorist attacks it would seem to make more sense to pounce on terrorists once their plans are advanced enough that physical evidence is available. Now this may require hiring more agents to monitor the movements of those suspected of engaging in terrorist plots but If there is additional risk I'd rather the government spent £1 billion to deflate it than create the potential for a police state by eroding our civil liberties.
I hope to come back to issues surrounding encryption in a later post.
4) Risk to the tourist industry.
The government ought to engage in public education campaigns to explain the relative risks from various diseases, accidents and violence. This would help the public regain a sense of perspective regarding life risks including terrorism. Such a public campaign may need to involve criticism of major news sources for exploiting the public's ignorance in such matters.
Furthermore there are other general things we should do which as a by product would result in less of a risk from terrorism.
A) Release developing countries from all debts incurred by former dictatorships of those countries.
B) Stop waging wars against international law.
C) Make comprehensive apologies for the abuses of power of the British government in former colonies and Northern Ireland (internment).
D) Increase funding of the BBC Arabic and certain other language services.
E) Increase funding to community integration projects.
F) Provide immunity from deportation to anyone providing tip offs resulting in successful trial of terrorists.
G) Decrease our dependance on crude oil.
Note that I am not claiming that we are not already doing any of (A)-(G). However, its always possible to do more.
It is also likely that the strong anti-terrorism laws are an effective recruiting sergeant for terrorist groups. Given this and the above it would I think its clear that we don't really need them.